WordPress is one of the most popular web hosting platforms in the world. According to statistics released by W3Techs in 2022, WordPress hosts an estimated 43.2 percent of all websites on the internet. That’s over 455 million websites. Like any software that becomes widely adopted, WordPress has become a target for cyber criminals and hackers. The websites themselves, the data stored in the databases, and the connections to other software and organizations can make exploiting vulnerabilities in WordPress a profitable business for bad actors.
That’s why securing your WordPress website is so important. As we’ve talked about many times on the WordZite blog, website security is much more than just having a strong password (though that’s part of it). Hackers don’t always gain access by stealing your login credentials. In fact, it’s a lot more common for hackers to gain access to your website through vulnerabilities in plugins and website code, or by injecting their own malware directly into your website.
There are many ways that you can ensure your WordPress website is secured against malware, bots, and hackers. One of the ways to get started is by using a vetted, high-quality WordPress security scanner. To help you out, we’ve compiled this list of the top WordPress Security scanners for 2023.
In this article:
- What is a WordPress security scanner?
- Things to look for in a security scanner
- Upguard’s Free Website Security Scan
- Hacker Target’s WordPress Security Scan
- Mozilla Observatory
- WP Sec
- Web Inspector
- Bulletproof Security
- IsItWP’s Free WordPress Security Scanner
- Google Safe Browsing
- Norton SafeWeb
- VirusTotal URL Scanner
What is a WordPress security scanner?
A security scanner is a piece of software, often in the form of a WordPress plugin or 3rd party application, that scans all the code that makes up your WordPress website and identifies vulnerabilities or evidence of suspicious activity. While different scanners can specialize in different issues, any good scanner worth its salt should be able to identify known vulnerabilities in WordPress plugins, themes, and core files – as well as malware that is designed to interact with those elements.
A good security scanner works on 3 basic principles:
The best WordPress security scanners are able to quickly detect vulnerabilities and suspicious activity. Once a vulnerability is detected, a good security scanner should also be able to analyze that vulnerability and classify it according to its severity, and the urgency with which it needs to be remediated. Finally, a good quality WordPress security scanner should also make remediation easier – either by providing some measure of automated malware removal, or by quickly alerting you and your security team to the issue, and providing support and assistance.
Things to look for in a security scanner
Each WordPress security scanner works with proprietary software and technology, but many have similar features in common. A good quality security scanner should have:
- Automatic scanning capabilities
- An alert and notification system
- An up-to-date and developing knowledge of current web vulnerabilities and malware
- Some form of remediation support
We should note that there are some really amazing paid scanners out there such as the WordPress Scanner from Pentest Tools or the Website Application Scanner from Acunetix or Invicti. And there are some solid paid WordPress plugins such as JetPack Scan. We didn’t include those tools in this article because we wanted to focus on free tools for this round. We also have made a note of the tools that required entering an email address to start the scan or get the results. That exposes your email to unknown email spam so it’s up to you if you want to use those tools. Regardless, many of the tools we’ve listed here do have paid versions which are a lot more useful than their free counterparts.
Here are some of our top choices for WordPress security scanners to help keep your WordPress website safe:
Wordfence is known as the most popular WordPress security plugin. With over 4 million active installations as of December 2022, WordFence’s legion of loyal users speaks volumes about the quality of its security solutions. The free version of WordFence offers quite a lot of value and is one of our go-to tools here at WordZite. One of the best things about WordFence is that they are continuously updating their plugin in real time with data pulled from “feeds focused on attacks targeting web accessible services, distilled from requests targeting 12,000 ASNs across 4 million endpoints.” If you don’t know what that means, it’s okay. They have a lot of websites under their umbrella which are all getting poked and prodded by threats every second. So you benefit from their vast network of data. It’s pretty impressive.
- Endpoint firewall
- Threat Defense Feed collects the latest security updates and information
- Provides security updates when a plugin has been abandoned or deprecated
The Sucuri WordPress plugin is available for free in the WordPress repository, and is compatible with WordPress 3.6 or higher. Sucuri supports not only regular scanning, but also offers options for “hardening” your WordPress website and making it less vulnerable to common types of attacks. Beyond just security scans, Sucuri is also a great alternative for websites that can’t host their DNS at the CDN (such as CloudFlare). We use Sucuri in cases like this so that the client still has a firewall and other benefits in place without having to move or disrupt the DNS hosting. Hats off to Sucuri for making a robust but also flexible solution.
- Regular malware scanning
- Customizable email alerts
- Post-hack support for cleaning up your website
3. UpGuard’s Free Website Security Scan
UpGuard scans billions of digital assets daily across thousands of vectors. Data leak detection, vulnerability scanning and identity breach detection are just some of the advanced capabilities offered by the UpGuard platform. Their Free Website Security Scan is one of the most comprehensive free scanners on the market. The only downside is that the results, while comprehensive, are not always presented with language that a layperson can understand. That’s okay, because you’ll generally need a technician to resolve anything that gets found. If you’re not sure what to look for, pay attention to the red exclamation marks, and take pride in a score that is over 800/950. This scanner sets a very high bar, but you may not need to get perfect marks depending on the nature of your site and business.
- Very comprehensive report for a free scanner
- Clear reporting with red exclamation marks showing issues
- Easy to see grading system (score out of 950)
4. Hacker Target’s WordPress Security Scan
If you can get past the somewhat threatening sounding name of their website/brand, this is actually one of the better free scanners out there. It is one of the only scanners that uncovers WordPress username enumeration (that is, finding your website’s usernames by doing a little scan for WordPress article author names in the code). It also is one of the only scanners that shows you the plugins in the site and the (outdated) versions of those plugins. It’s worth a quick scan to compare to the higher level information you might get from Sucuri or UpGuard.
- WordPress specific information
- Plugin versions
- Username enumeration defense
5. Mozilla Observatory
This scanner is highly technical and only scans for broader security issues that developers need to be aware of (it’s not WordPress specific). The language used in this scanner is not accessible to the layperson. But it does provide some nice reporting on some major vulnerabilities such as Heartbleed, DROWN, and Poodle. It also shows if a site is PCI-DSS compliant, and HIPAA compliant along with some information about the quality of the encryption. Again, highly technical. But, definitely worth using if you’ve hired a developer to do some work on your site’s security. This tool can help hold them accountable.
- Highly technical scan
- Focussed on broader technical security issues and not just WordPress
- Scans for major vulnerabilities, compliance and encryption levels
6. WP Sec
WP Sec provides an easy-to-use WordPress security solution that is useful for both security experts and business owners. The all-in-one dashboard allows you to quickly view results from your scans, and gives you the ability to quickly compare results across all of your WordPress domains, if you have multiple websites. WP Sec provides a free account option so you can quickly scan and get updates on your website in an emergency.
- Instant scan provides quick updates
- Deep scanning checks every part of your website
- Easy to read reporting with colour coding for severity
SiteGuarding’s WordPress security services offer scanning, backups, and malware removal
In addition to paid protection services, SiteGuarding also offers a variety of free WordPress security add-ons that you can use to secure a smaller, personal website. They operate on the principles of protection, detection, and response. SiteGuarding’s goal is to protect your website so hackers never get in in the first place – but if something does go wrong, they can detect it and provide quick remediation.
- Requires entering your email to get the scan results
- DNS, WHOIS, and SSL record change scanning
- Free WordPress security add-ons
- 24/7 staff support
8. Web Inspector
Web Inspector offers free website malware scans – simply paste your URL onto the website, and they’ll quickly scan for any vulnerabilities or threats. Web Inspector boasts service in under 15 minutes, so if you suspect an issue with your website you can get help, or peace of mind, quickly.
Using techniques such as dynamic page analysis and heuristic detection, Web Inspector’s WordPress security scanner is able to adapt and detect new threats before they become a major issue.
- Requires entering your email to get the scan results
- Dynamic page analysis
- Heuristic detection techniques
- Immediate threat notifications
Defender offers security scanning and protection against a variety of threats, such as brute force logins, SQL injections, and cross-site scripting XSS. Defender’s suite of products and services includes a malware scanner, antivirus scans, IP blocking, firewall, activity and security logs, and Two-factor authentication (2FA). Like WordFence, this is actually a WordPress plugin, so you need to jump through a couple of hoops to get it installed. Then you can run some scans.
- Scans comparing your site to WP repository files
- Notifications for security issues
- Global IP block/allow lists
10. BulletProof Security
Bulletproof security features a full suite of security products for WordPress, including a malware scanner. Bulletproof’s advantage is that it provides proactive security fixes, repairing known issues in a number of existing WordPress plugins so that you can ensure your website remains secure without having to replace any of your favourite plugins.
The Bulletproof security scanner also incorporates login monitoring, and real-time file monitoring, so if any unauthorized change takes place on your website, you’ll know about it immediately and have a chance to remediate.
- MScan malware scanner
- Login monitoring
- Real-time file monitoring
Geekflare has a suite of what we call tiny tools that give you snippets of information in separate scans. We found this approach to be a bit cumbersome as you need to run a bunch of separate small scans instead of just running one single scan like you would with, for example, UpGuard. For this reason we’re not strongly recommending this to anyone unless you just want to test for something like “Secure Headers”. In that case, this is a great resource to help developers do scans on single items without the noise of other scans cluttering the results. For this specific purpose, the Geekflare website actually has one of the best user interfaces and user experiences of all of the sites and tools we looked at. Hats off to the team that designed this site.
- Separate scanners for different security needs
- Paid tools are more comprehensive
- Great user interface and user experience
Astra’s firewall and scanner works with all major CMS platforms, including WordPress – convenient if your company has multiple sites for different business modules. Astra scans for vulnerabilities and malware on your site. The scanner features automatic removal of known malware, streamlining security so you and your team don’t have to focus on securing your site.
The downside is Astra are really pushing their paid subscriptions. This free scanner may not be the most pleasant to use as you’ll find the chat bot and other calls-to-action tend to overlay and disrupt the scanner. Nonetheless, it’s free and it does provide some useful albeit slightly technically worded information. The overall score of out 100 is a nice feature that we don’t see in a lot of the other tools.
- Overall score out of 100
- Paid product is far more robust
13. IsItWP’s free WordPress security scanner
IsItWP has a free WordPress security scanner that helps to scan for known malware and hacks. It also checks your domain status with top search engines. Truth be told, this scanner is actually powered by Sucuri. You are better off just using Sucuri’s scanner. But this tool won’t hurt if you happen to use it first.
- Built on Sucuri’s scanner
Quttera has both a free online scanner as well as a downloadable WordPress scanner. Because we’re security conscious, we didn’t care to download their WordPress scanner, but we did give the free online scanner a spin. The website itself doesn’t have the most up-to-date user experience, so we’re not confident that the scanner has been maintained to a high level either. A word of warning: when you initiate the scan you get put in a queue and it takes a few minutes to get the results. If you want to try this tool, start it up before your next coffee break. We gave up after 10 minutes and closed the browser window.
- Slow…very slow
15. Google Safe Browsing
Never to be disregarded are some of the free tools that Google offers. The “safe browsing,” or “transparency” report is a free service Google provides that shows you whether their own spiders, crawlers, and other applications have found anything wrong with a website. It is the least comprehensive report of the bunch which is why we’ve put it last. But, it does provide a nice green checkmark from Google which provides some assurance that a website you may want to visit has not been marked and malicious by any of Google’s systems.
- Super Fast
- Very Simple Results
16. Norton SafeWeb
Norton Safe Web is a reputation service from Norton. Their servers analyze websites to ascertain how they will affect computers. If your website does bad things to Norton’s scanners, then your domain gets flagged within their system. Getting your website removed from Norton’s system can be very difficult. Thus, this is a scanner that you can trust. While it’s not very comprehensive in the reporting (you just see a green “OK” icon), it is fast and gives you some assurance that a site you want to visit is safe.
- Data pulled from Norton’s comprehensive malware scanning infrastructure
- Simple results – green “OK” or red exclamation mark
17. VirusTotal URL Scanner
Like Google’s Safe Browsing, this is just a free scanner that provides a report on whether the URLs in question have been flagged by a long list of 3rd party security vendors. One of those vendors happens to be Google Safe Browsing. These are mostly vendors that report email spam and blacklist email servers or domains. Nonetheless, it’s a good tool for a quick scan. If blacklist scanning is your goal, you may also want to look at MX Toolbox’s Blacklist Scanner.
- Reporting across multiple security vendors
- Limited to mostly email phishing/scam/spam reporting
Security scanners are just one tool required to ensure WordPress websites are protected. Using a handful of the above tools, you can get a pretty good sense of how secure your website is. It might even help you hold your web developers and hosting provider accountable. However, you can’t rely solely on a scanning tool to secure your site.
Make sure you have a team in place that knows how to respond to issues and can provide you with fast, professional and reliable service. If you need help with your WordPress website’s security, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We have years of experience helping businesses and organizations maintain strong, secure WordPress websites.